Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Writing for Children

Today I read for a fourth grade class in the library at local elementary school. I have no regular association with children so I have no relative idea of ages and grades or what they are capable of and when.

When I started to transform Antigone into a children’s story my main goal was to keep ‘the moral’ intact. My interpretation of the moral is that wisdom can be found in everyone and only a fool would disregard it. To get to that moral while sidestepping all the suicides and the hint of incest was my first challenge. I didn’t want a happy ever after ending, but I also didn’t want people hanging or throwing themselves on swords.

The next challenge was to explain why people were disobeying the king. My first rendition left that out completely, saying that he simply made up silly rules that nobody liked. When I read it to classmates, they wanted to know what the rules were that were so silly. Everyone wanted to know why. I didn’t want to go into great detail about two brothers fighting and dying over the rule of a city. One gets burial honors and the other is left, by decree, for carrion.

I took the totally tamed down tale to the school today and met my fourth graders. They are much bigger than I thought fourth graders should be. (Again, I had no reference point.) So I asked them, “How many of you have younger brothers and sisters?” Fortunately, many of them do. I told them that I’d created a story for a younger crowd and I need their help to make it better. Then I asked them if they knew what kings, queens, princes and princesses are, and of course they do. Then I asked if they could tell me what it is that a king does. I got a variety of answers; “They go to fancy parties, wear fancy clothes, sit on their thrones, have butlers, play with their money, boss people around,” et cetera.

I read them the story and they were extremely well-behaved, listening throughout. Then I asked what they thought and how I could make it better. Suggested ideas included talking frogs, bears and Transformers. Some students had wonderful suggestions on ways to get rid of the king. “Take him for a walk and get him lost while everybody else leaves the kingdom.”

The librarian asked me to tell them more about the original story. I told the group that the story was written for a much older crowd than my story. I confessed that all the people who went away forever, actually died. Immediately the children were on their knees in their chairs insisting on knowing how. What a blood-thirsty bunch.

Antigone for Children follows.

1 comment:

IronHorse said...

Why was the MARC train left out of this modified story? All the bad people could have been sent to happy hour in the party car. Wouldn't that be a nice addition to the story?